Alternative career paths

Alternative career paths – Which one is right for you?

Not everyone knows what they want to be when they’re older.

Yet young people are consistently reminded to plan beyond their school days. For some, the choice is easy. But for others, career paths aren’t so clear cut.

The focus on final exams, university offers and ATARs puts pressure on many people to secure a spot at a top university. Still, not everyone needs to go to uni to pursue their dream job or become successful. University isn’t the only option. Neither is it the best option for everyone.

Whether you’re a new graduate, looking for a change or didn’t get the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score you wanted, finding the most suitable career can be challenging. Get inspired by these alternative career paths and explore which option is right for you.


Traditional vs Alternative Career Paths

Traditional career paths typically involve a graduate route or the opportunity to progress within an organisation.

A graduate route may present a fast-tracked option. However, depending on what you want to study and the career you choose, it usually involves years of study.

Choosing to progress from an assistant position to a specialised role can take longer. You’ll likely start as an office assistant and as your skills develop, progress upwards on the career ladder. Eventually, you’ll move through the hierarchy to more responsible positions that’ll better cater for your career choice.

Whilst these traditional career paths still work, they’re not for everyone.

But flexible working arrangements and project-based jobs have changed career expectations. Experienced based entry university pathways have also made it possible for people to go to uni, even without an ATAR score.

Consider looking at:

Other Education Providers

There are other education providers to use to reach your career goals.

Aside from uni, there’s TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and VET (Vocational Education and Training), both which offer alternative pathways into further education. Courses under these providers include Certificates I to IV, diplomas and advanced diplomas. Whilst they only offer lower-level qualifications compared to uni, they provide graduates with practical skills needed for certain roles and industries.

Tip: Before choosing a TAFE or VET course, make sure it allows you to enter your preferred occupation or provides a practical pathway to a higher level of education, such as a degree.

Bridging or Pathway Programs

If you do want to go to uni but don’t have the ATAR score you need, there are alternative entry and pathway programs that may get you there.

These cover:

  • Bridging programs: Which are for students wanting to undertake an enabling course
  • RTO pathways: If you have achieved Certificate IV or higher qualification through TAFE after completing Year 12, you have met the minimum requirements for most courses except for Law, Education and Physiotherapy courses
  • Enabling programs: These programs meet the entry requirement for some universities. They’re designed as a short entry pathway to help gain entry into some Business, Law, Health Sciences and Humanities undergraduate courses
  • Mature-age university entry exams: Ideal for those wanting to generate their own ATAR score to complete study and/or apply for most courses

Industry based career pathways can also begin with an apprenticeship and traineeship. Other alternatives could be travel internships or to start your own business.


Typically, to become a Registered Nurse (RN) you’ll need to complete a three-year Bachelor of Nursing Degree. Entry can be competitive and may be subjected to high academic results in year 12. However, a career as an Enrolled Nurse (EN) can be achieved through a Diploma of Nursing, which usually involves 18 months of full time study.

Entry-level qualifications, such as a Certificate III in Individual Support will allow a nursing assistance career, with options to work in ageing, home and community, and disability health care sectors.


Advertising, marketing and communications are highly competitive industries. Most will require a degree in one of these fields or in Business Management. Fortunately, marketing is a broad industry with many different pathways. Whilst some jobs are more numbers and revenue focused, others will require creative skills and strategic planning.

Entry-level jobs provide an additional career pathway option, such as a Marketing or Advertising Account Coordinator, Communications Specialist, Sales Representative or Social Media Specialist.


Accounting is an ideal study option for anyone wanting to get into the finance industry because of the business skills you’ll develop and career options. Studying accounting will also set you up in a business career.

Jobs that don’t require a degree to break are an Accounts Clerk, which can begin with a one year traineeship or a formal qualification; Certificate III in Accounts Administration, Certificate III in Business Administration or Certificate IV in Bookkeeping. Alternatively, bookkeeping, legal accounts and bank cashier positions also require similar certifications or strong academic qualifications.

Graduates are fast-tracked into higher-level positions including financial accounting, auditing and specialist management and investment areas.


Without a degree, you’ll need very strong academic skills for legal apprentice studies or to work your way up in the industry.

However, if you already have a law degree and need a change of scenery, journalism, politics, finance, human resources and professional counselling are jobs law graduates can also break into.

Depending on your passions, skills and personality – there are many different career paths to take. Which one is right for you?

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